An Advocate for Animals

Andrea+Kaz+%28right%29+participates+in+a+demonstration+against+a+local+pet+store+that+sells+puppies+and+kittens+from+puppy+mills.+Kaz+has+dedicated+her+life+to+spreading+puppy+mill+awareness+and+advocating+for+pet+adoption.

Andrea Kaz (right) participates in a demonstration against a local pet store that sells puppies and kittens from puppy mills. Kaz has dedicated her life to spreading puppy mill awareness and advocating for pet adoption.

Berenice Lazaro, Staff writer

A small bell rings as I enter into the small coffee shop, and I cross the room to sit beside a woman who greets me with a firm handshake and a smile as warm as the room. The smell of freshly brewed coffee fills the dimly-lit room, the chatter of workers executing orders and the machines they operate create a bustling scene. Adjusting myself on the small couch seats, I open my journal to pages as crisp as the new fall air and I begin my interview.

It’s the middle of her day when animal advocate Andrea Kaz, 45, sits and chats. Although she lives in Round Lake, she grew up in a suburb outside of Chicago called Niles. Kaz is a retired police officer, who now substitute teaches part time, pet sits, and plays matchmaker for homeless animals and people looking for a pet. “I knew when I was five that I wanted to be a vet, but then I found out that a lot of people would bring in animals to put them down,” Kaz said, waiting patiently for me to finish jotting down my notes. “When I had found that out, I wanted to help older dogs.” Kaz is a volunteer for the Puppy Mill Awareness Project and its mission to educate the public about puppy mills and their connection to puppies sold in pet stores, on the Internet and through other outlets. The project started almost five years ago when a girl named Cari Meyers looked into puppy mills and decided to take action. Since then, many followed in her footsteps and Andrea Kaz is one of those people greatly dedicated to stopping puppy mills and sale of puppies and kittens in pet stores.

Kaz is an advocate for puppy mill awareness and encourages people to adopt from shelters rather than buy puppies or other animals such as cats and guinea pigs from pet stores.” I always like to suggest fostering before adopting so people know what they’re in for,” Kaz said.“As nice as it seems to buy a pet, sometimes people may regret the choice because they failed to realize the responsibility and capability it takes to handle having a pet.”

People’s inability to realize how much responsibility is involved in pet ownership is one of the main reasons Kaz does not like the idea of pet stores selling puppies, kittens, and other small animals. She says that pet stores often rely on people making knee-jerk decisions.“There is no need to buy a pet from a pet store,” she said.  “There is time to look at other options, a lot of those pet stores rely on impulse. Businesses associated with animals try to trick customers that they feel a connection with the animals so they feel as if buying the pet is doing the animal a favor.”

In reality, however, when the customers feel like they are rescuing the animals from pet stores, they are simply replaced by more livestock.  “When people are set on buying, they think there is no other dog or whatever animal like it, when in reality [pet store owners]  could have a whole bunch of other dogs just like it in the back,”said Kaz. “It’s like sharks teeth, you can pull one out but there’s lots more behind one tooth.”

In efforts to raise awareness Kaz participates in demonstrations, posts information on a Facebook page, and hands out flyers during demonstration events. For those who want to find a pet most suitable to them, she recommended Petfinder.com, a website that helps potential pet owners figure out which type of pet is best for them, and then connects them with several shelters and rescue organizations.

Kaz wishes more people knew about the horrors animals from puppy mills suffer. Sadly, it’s a serious and daunting reality these dogs face after a life of breeding.  “A lot of these dogs are forced to breed repeatedly,” she said. “But once they can’t have any more babies, breeders find ways to get rid of them. Some breeders are good to the animals while other shoot them down when they stop being useful.”

When asked why she tries so hard to help after discovering the truth of puppy mills, Kaz referred to something she tells her students when she substitute teaches, “The world is just like a classroom, you can choose to leave it the way it was or you can choose to make it better, I prefer to make it better”.